The singer-songwriter opens up about losing her brother Drakeo The Ruler.
On January 2, I drove to Hollywood, California to kick off the New Year with an intimate, exclusive interview with Ivory Channell. It was her first-ever interview.
Ivory is an upcoming singer-songwriter and entrepreneur from South Central Los Angeles. Ivory’s popular on social media for her unique fashion videos and her eponymous earring collection. She’s been creative from a young age and showed an eye for fashion early, starting her earring collection at the age of 14. Ivory recently began pursuing music and released her debut album, Intoxicated Thoughts.
Ivory was raised in a single-mother household with three older brothers. Two of those older brothers are California rap icons: Ralfy The Plug and the late Drakeo The Ruler. Ivory picked up her love for music at a very young age. She listened to R&B soul growing up and sang in her room as a kid. “I was writing really young. I remember I was in class and we had a talent show. Me and my three friends wrote some lyrics and sang it in front of the school. We really thought we was cool.” Ivory was put into choir at the age of 4. “I didn’t really know until someone told me, like, ‘You can sing.’ It was a hidden talent I had; some of my family today are just now discovering that I can sing, cuz I hide it so good. I feel like art was always a way for me to escape from things.”
Ivory grew up seeing people around her creating things and that’s when she decided she wanted to make jewelry. “I used to watch my best friend’s mom cuz she made jewelry. At first, I was just experimenting and my mom was like, ‘What are you doing?’ Then she seen it was more serious,” she says jokingly. “Then I started having fashion shows in my high school and started selling my stuff in stores downtown, too, before I left for college.”
Ivory’s family is at a comfortable financial place now, but growing up, it wasn’t always easy. Ivory’s mother worked hard to provide for their family and did what she could.
“Even though I did have it hard growing up, I always wanted to get out the hood — not necessarily to forget it, but get out to help other people,” she says. Ivory’s mom worked a lot and her brothers would be in and out of the house, too. “Y’all know them as Drakeo and Ralfy, but for me, I know them as Darrell and Devante. I also have another brother, Harold, who was with us for a little bit. But it was mainly Darrell and Devante I grew up with, in and out of the house a lot because they was in and out of jail. So it was only, like, me and mom. I loved my brothers. I always had them. But sometimes I feel like I was an only child, due to the in and out.”
Despite her brothers’ incarcerations, Ivory still had a close relationship with them. They continued to protect her as their younger sister. “I was sheltered, I was very sheltered. Even my brothers didn’t want me going nowhere with them outside. My mom didn’t let me go to nobody house, no spending the night, except my best friend because she knew her mom,” she explains.
“I wasn’t seeing nothing too crazy. I don’t know what anyone else was seeing, but I wasn’t seeing nobody get shot or nothing. I was hearing about it, but I think God didn’t want me to really experience that, at that young of age. My mom would always tell me, ‘Don’t go over there,’ even my brothers did,” she says. The area in South Central where Ivory grew up wasn’t the safest. After she experienced several life-changing events, she began to see the world in another light.
“At first, it was cool — until we ended up homeless. That kinda changed my whole perspective of life. I feel like I didn’t know anything until we lost our first house. And I was, like, 7 or 8, and I was like, ‘Damn, I gotta grow the fuck up.’ I feel like I grew up pretty fast after that.”
A few years later, Ivory was forced to face the reality of the world around her when her older brother, Drakeo, was shot. He was only 14. “I was, like, between 10, 12 years old. I remember my brother Devante coming home and he had blood all over his clothes. And we were like, ‘Where Darrell at?’ And he was like, ‘Darrell got shot,’” she explains. “That’s when everything clicked for me. He was only, like, 14. And I was like, ‘They shooting kids out here.…I really gotta be careful.’”
Luckily, Ivory hasn’t personally faced any gun violence in LA, but she remains aware of what her city’s streets have to offer. Ivory moved from LA to Oklahoma to attend Langston University, a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). It was there she met her husband Kouadio, stage name Jamelvitch, and began to pursue her music career. She’s been married for about a year now, but couldn’t fully enjoy her honeymoon in Miami due to the murder of her brother, Drakeo The Ruler.
“I got married December 15, 2021 and Darrell passed December 18, 2021. I found out by my best friend texting me. I was in denial.”
I watched her express this to me with pain and suffering in her eyes. I, too, could relate. I was Drakeo’s friend, and I was in denial and in shock about his death as well. I couldn’t believe someone I had just spoken to only hours before, and someone I shared so many good memories and moments with, was gone.
“I was like, ‘Darrell got shot before… he gone be good.’ My brother always gets outta stuff, so I went to sleep. I needed the sleep. I woke up the next morning and I found out. I was so sad. I cried the whole day, and the day after, and the day after that.” Ivory traveled back to LA to comfort her family who was preparing for his funeral. “It really hit me more when we were in Darrell’s house and Darrell wasn’t there. That shit, it still don’t feel real, to be honest.”
Ivory hopes to keep her brother’s music and legacy alive by continuing to “Keep The Truth Alive,” a slogan created by her brother. It is also the title of his debut album that was posthumously dropped by the Stinc Team record label. She has plans in the future to pay homage to her brother through an EP she will be dropping soon.
Ivory started officially recording music about three years ago. Her music reflects a soulful R&B vibe, while mirroring past experiences and trials she’s been through. “This guy, he did me dirty. I just felt like it was the perfect time to drop some shit, something was in me. When I dropped it, everyone from my school was posting it, so I was like, damn, y’all really mess with me,” she says. She hopes to go far with her career and branch out into the mainstream music world by allowing people to read into her soul and feel what she’s been through.
Ivory’s husband, Jamelvitch, continues to encourage and inspire her. “Where I was living, there wasn’t a [recording] studio, so it was my husband who really helped me get everything off the ground. He took me to his friend’s [studio] and everything turned out perfect, and from there I continued working,” she says. Her husband even taught her how to record at home. “I’m real shy. So when I get around people at studios, I don’t sing the way I want to sing and I don’t write the way I want to.”
Ivory plans to stay consistent and prays for much success in the next few years. “My music is mainly past experiences. Most of my music is sad. It’s not intentional. A lot of what I write about is from my past. I been learning how to write about stories. Even Darrell and Devante, some of their songs are just stories … It’s really about consistency and also keeping that dream alive.”